Saturday, April 05, 2008

Everywhere Its Star Wars!

For the past few weeks I have been seeing these posters all over the city. On busses, subways, taxis, and billboards. Starting April 4th Spike will be showing the entire six episodes of Star Wars, I assume, in order. I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that this will be the first time that a cable channel has played all six movies in a row.

While the idea of sitting through all of the Episodes on commercial television is painful to me personally—not because I don’t love them, it’s just that I already have them on DVD so who needs the commercials—perhaps this will get others excited about the films.

I remember not too long ago one of the cable channels showed the Lord of the Rings trilogy endlessly. It seemed that every time I turned on the T.V. one of the movies was on. Despite the fact that I owned those movies and the extended editions, I still used to sit through major chunks when they were on.

So I am not sure. I may tune in to see the Star Wars episodes on Spike. Maybe not. Who knows? Sometimes getting people excited about an event—even one as rehashed as a Star Wars marathon—is more about the advertising and marketing than anything else. I’d like to think this, being that I am in the marketing field. Half of advertising is simply repackaging the same thing in a new and different way.

Two brands that come to mind are Energizer and Absolut. In both cases the advertising is what people think of first. In the case of Energizer, all I can think about is a little pink bunny that “keeps going and going and going and going…” In essence, a battery is a battery is a battery. How much longer can Energizer last than another brand, a few percent? But because of this amazing advertising, we all think Energizer is a superior brand because of the inventive framing done by the ads. We think Energizer and we think, “…and going and going and going…”

Absolut Vodka is a pretty good vodka. It’s not amazingly different or going to grow hair or get you laid in a way that is far, far superior to say Grey Goose or Smirnoff. So what’s the real difference? Sure, some people may call it crap or call it gold but that’s subjective. The reason why Absolut is so popular is a phenomenally successful and creative ad campaign that holds up better than almost any other in the history of advertising because it’s so simple yet powerful and versatile.

So when I look at the advertising done by Spike, I get a sense that this is just the same old Star Wars but repackaged in a cool way. Taking out essential points, even ridiculous and laughable ones like calling Anakin Skywalker—the baddest Mother F-er in the galaxy—“Annie.” Or calling Chewbacca—the ever-faithful sidekick to loveable rogue, Han Solo—the original wingman.” Or my favorite, the gold bikini that “never goes out of style,” which plays up millions of young boy fantasies that we men folk have carried with us for many a year. (Who didn’t want Princess Leia in a gold bikini to show up at their birthday/barmitzvah/bachelor party?)

Whether it works or not, we’ll let the ratings decide. I do know that even if they don’t draw a big crowd to the boob tube the way other television events have done in the past, it’s not for a lack of trying. They have very successfully made the entire trilogy very, relevant and cool again, at least for a little while.

One thing is for certain, I’ve enjoyed my walks to work while staring at slave Leia on the sides of busses and on top of taxi cabs. Know what? They’re right. A gold bikini never does go out of style.

On another note, the website /Film has an entire post dedicated to Star Wars graffiti. It’s pretty cool. I’ve featured a few of the images here to go along with the whole, Star Wars art outdoors theme of this post. /Film is an alternative movie news and review blog.

This is a prime example of the dream of every single marketer (you know who you are) in the entire world: Free viral marketing. Imagine people co-opting your image and brand as artwork in a very visible and respectful way. Star Wars has the unique property of built in marketing in the hearts of millions of people all over the world, more than anything else. (Except maybe Hello Kitty in Japan, which I do not understand the fascination with in the least, except for Tween girls!)

Marketing is about spreading the message in the widest possible fashion. Star Wars graffiti is what we in marketing want in our own little way for whatever brand it is we are trying to gain awareness of in the marketplace. This graffiti embodies the penultimate in viral marketing—it’s creative, quirky, very visual, positive and best of all, free! We’ll ignore the part about defacing public property, that part is probably not very desirable, so let’s assume the art was either commissioned or accepted.

In both cases, Star Wars as a property is taken off the screen and put into the environment. The amazing part is that this phenomenon of Star Wars is so pervasive and ingrained into our collective culture that without explanation these icons can be twisted in to riddles, puns and quirky jokes, with out a narrative background having to be served. It is as if everyone intrinsically understands why a hairy ape is a good wingman or a guy can snap when called Annie too many times. Or why an AT-AT would make a great pet.

The mythology of Star Wars is something that has been going on for more than thirty years now and never stops. It just keeps popping up all around us. It’s going and going.

“…and going!”


T. Benjamin Larsen said...

Great post.
Yeah Star Wars has become an integral part of our pop-culture, even though I still find people from my parents' generation that are more or less oblivious to the whole thing. (Might be because Sci-Fi and Norway in the 70's was a tough mix).

What is really fascinating to me is that even people who have never watched the films often get the references simply because the films have be referred to in so many other cultural medias over the years...

ObilonKenobi said...

True.Even people who never saw the movies tend to get the references simply because the story and characters have been referred to and parodied enough that you can't help but know the major components.